The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series has been surprising. I don’t recall a more competitive 450 class from top to bottom. There’s very little separating the top riders from the guys consistently finishing mid-pack. It’s not raw speed that determines their finish, nor is it physical conditioning they all have it at this level, so what is it? The most important thing a rider can have to ensure success is confidence.
(Cooper Webb has developed unwaivoring confidence since joining KTM)
When Supercross racers are separated by fractions of a second, the rider with the most confidence usually wins. Confidence can’t be purchased or taught; it’s gained over time by producing results, preparing and nurturing mental strength. At every opening, round riders look to their offseason preparation for confidence. Take a look at Martin Davalos, during the offseason he looked like a guy who would battle inside the top five regularly, his offseason performance at the Geneva Supercross was spectacular. Unfortunately, during the first few rounds of Supercross, he struggled and his confidence was shaken, all the confidence he gained during the off-season was destroyed. He has been struggling all season with crashes and other issues. His speed is there and while he knows it’s possible to run up front, it takes unimaginable self-belief to execute. His performance last Saturday in Atlanta will help in restoring some of his lost confidence.
(Martin Davalos looks to be struggling with confidence, but Atlanta will help.)
Confidence is what has kept Chad Reed relevant for the majority of his professional career. Chad has a superhuman belief in his skills, even accused of being delusional at times. Reed always finds a way to prove all his doubters wrong, he did this with pure confidence. Chad was never a rider with insane natural talent but always found a way to be competitive. People close to Chad were always amazed at how he could rebound from a bad race and show up the next week fully believing he would win. Other riders would accept their limitations and were beaten before the weekend started.”
(Chad Reed has made a career out of confidence and self belief)
Often rookies start their professional careers loaded with confidence but are quickly taken down a peg. Riders who don’t regain their confidence have a shorter racing career. Teams often overlook the importance of confidence when grooming riders to be professionals. Confidence is difficult to gain and easy to lose, that’s why it’s so important to slowly bring young riders into the professional ranks. Poor results early can destroy years of grooming. Daniel Blair was one of the fastest amateurs in the United States but turned professional too early and his confidence was crushed. Daniel spent the rest of his career regaining the confidence he once had as an amateur but never reached heights of the competitors he battled as an amateur.
(Daniel Blair had an impressive career, but if his confidence not been smashed at a young age, who knows how much more success he would have had?)
When protecting a young rider's confidence it’s important to curb their expectations. Confidence is built by exceeding expectations, if a rider expects to get tenth and they get eighth a small amount of confidence is gained, but if they finish behind expectations a large amount of confidence is lost. Everyone talks about the dangers of turning professional too early and while the physical dangers are great, it’s their confidence that’s most fragile. Young rookies aren’t the only ones susceptible. Thomas Covingtion struggled badly in the 2019 Supercross series and his skill set seemed to vanish by the end. This forced a parting with the team and Thomas is still struggling to regain the GP winning form he once showed.
In order for a rider to have confidence, they need to put in the work, both physically and mentally. Confident riders seem to get good starts and are always in the right place at the right time. It’s the most overlooked and important characteristic of a professional racer!